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Montana Records First Suspected Case Of CWD In Wild Elk

Montana recorded its first suspected case of chronic wasting disease in wild elk Monday, Nov. 25. The cow elk was harvested by a landowner on private land northeast of Red Lodge earlier this month and samples were extracted from the carcass in Billings Nov. 6. Tests results confirming the suspected presence of the disease were returned to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the hunter on Monday.

CWD was found in a herd of captive game-farm elk near Philipsburg in 1999 and the herd was depopulated. Until last month, however, the disease had not been found in wild elk in Montana.

CWD first was confirmed in the wild in Montana in a mule deer in Carbon County in 2017 as a result of scheduled searches on harvested game. Earlier this month, tests showed that a moose in northwest Montana was suspected to have CWD. All other cases since the disease was discovered in Montana in 2017 have been in white-tailed deer and mule deer.

CWD is an always-fatal prion-based disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk and moose. Transmission can most commonly occur through direct contact between animals, including urine, feces, saliva, blood and antler velvet. Carcasses of infected animals may serve as a source of environmental contamination as well and can infect other animals that come into contact with that carcass.

There is no known transmission of CWD to humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters harvesting an animal in an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested. The animal’s head and throat area are required for testing purposes. If the animal tests positive, CDC advises against eating the meat.

The 2019 general hunting season ended Sunday, Dec. 1. For more information on CWD, go to CWD or call the Region 6 FWP office at 228-3700.

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